Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Girl for All Seasons

I was born and raised in a suburb of Philadelphia, and I went to college at Penn State in beautiful “Happy Valley” central Pennsylvania. But 8 ½ years ago, after getting accepted into the MFA program at The University of Arizona, I moved to Arizona to go to graduate school. And then, after I graduated, I got my first real job here, bought a house here, gave birth to my children here. And somehow in that time I became an Arizona girl, a girl who finds 50 degrees outrageously cold, a girl who complains at the slightest hint of rain or humidity, a girl who knows the difference between a green chile and a jalpeno.

But deep down, I am still a Pennsylvania girl at heart. You see, I am inherently fond of REAL cheese steaks, expansive green lawns, and beautiful fall foliage.

Growing up, fall was my favorite season: Picking pumpkins from a farm on a cool afternoon, the smell of the first chimney smoke in the air, the feel of a fleece hooded sweatshirt against my skin after a summer in a bathing suit. And then, when I was in college, the drive from Philadelphia to central Pennsylvania was always spectacular each fall, the perfect reds and golds of the leaves arching up the sides of the winding mountain roads, a blur of brilliant colors against a pale blue sky.

There are no real seasons in Arizona, no fall foliage (barely any real foliage at all), no snow, no April showers, no May flowers. There is summer, and then there is a slightly less hot summer, and then there is winter, which is surprisingly cold at night and oddly warm during the day.

So I celebrated the first day of fall on Monday in nice cool 95 degree weather! I slathered the kids in sunscreen and walked them down to the park, and not even thirty minutes later we were all red-faced and sweating. We walked back home amidst cactus and purple lantana, nary a gold or red (or green, for that matter) leaf in sight.

There is something about the change of the seasons that always signified, to me, the beginning of something new, a reason to start fresh with a new set of clothes, and sometimes, a new set of goals, or a new attitude. And I have to say, I miss that now. When I moved to Arizona I knew that the weather would be different, but it never occurred to me the way seasons, or lack there of, would actually affect my outlook on life. Maybe it’s because I’m also a super-organized person; I like to be able to visualize things in parts – the year being no exception. Fall, winter, spring, summer – four equal but different quarters, each with their own meaning and their own wardrobes and temperatures and activities. Without that, sometimes the year feels like one long never-ending stretch.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many, many things I love about living in Arizona. And I’ve reconciled the loss of real seasons with the loss of a biting cold winter, with the loss of parkas and snow boots and rock salt.

In fact, in the last eight years, I’ve become quite fond of winter – not the winter I knew as a child, replete with scarves and bundles of firewood. But this new and strange concept of an Arizona winter.

That’s right, come December I will have a lovely walk back to that same park I went to on Monday. Only then it will be a perfect Arizona day, a sunny and clear 65 degrees. And suddenly, the lack of seasons won’t seem to matter one bit.



BamaHippie said...

Jill, I miss the Pennsylvania autumn too. It's just not the same down here!

Maureen Lipinski said...

While I DO love the pumpkin farms, leaves changing color and crisp football weather here in Chicago, let's talk when it's February and my butt is freezing off in eight below wind chills! :)

lisapatton said...

Jill, great post! You've put me right in PA!

Jillian Cantor said...

Thanks, Lisa!

Marleah, this is always the time of year when I miss PA! Glad to know I'm not the only one.

Maureen, I know I'll feel differently come winter! But right now, I'm sick of the heat and still longing for that crisp football weather :-).

Tracy Madison said...

I love the change of seasons, and your post reminded me of how much I love them! Great post!

Lesley Livingston said...

I could almost smell wood smoke and hear leaves crunching when I read this. I do so love the change of seasons. But I admit - your lack of winter is does sound really nice...